Everything You Ever Wanted to Ask Your Taxi Uncle – Vanessa Tai

Hands up those of you who often tweet passive-aggressive tweets about your cabbie – “If this cabbie jams his brake one more time, I’m gonna f-ing puke”; “Taxi uncle, please just shut up and drive.” It seems like we passengers have a million and one grouses when it comes to taxi drivers in Singapore – “Why are they always On Call whenever it rains?”; “Why does he get so pissed off when I tell him I need to go to more than one destination? Doesn’t he want more money?”

To clear the air on some of your most common gripes, I sat down for a chat with Mr Vincent Tai (yes, we’re related), who has been driving a taxi for the past 10 years.

Q: Do taxi drivers intentionally activate the “Busy” sign just to avoid certain passengers?

“These drivers probably have a prior appointment to pick up their own family members, or with their regular customers. Some drivers, like myself, prefer to have a pool of regular customers because it ensures a more steady income.”

Q2. In London, taxi drivers are required to take a topographical test to prove they know how to go everywhere in the city. Do you think it’s necessary for taxi drivers to take such a test?

“While it would be ideal that our local drivers have an intimate knowledge of the city’s roads, there are many small roads in Singapore that make it almost impossible to know all the directions by heart. Thankfully, most taxis these days come outfitted with a GPS. Having said that, I know plenty of older-generation cabbies prefer to completely do away with the GPS or any other computerized system for that matter. They find it too stressful. I think more should be done to train up our drivers. Currently, the training sessions for these new systems only take half or one day, which is hardly sufficient for the less tech-savvy drivers to learn anything.”

Q3. When presented with a big note ($50 and above), a lot of taxi drivers will show their displeasure. What are your thoughts?

“The onus should be on the driver to always have sufficient small change with him. Reason being, we cabbies are in the service industry after all and should always strive to give the best possible service. Even if the driver receives plenty of big notes consecutively, he should take the initiative to go to the nearest coffee shop or petrol station to get change.”

Q4. Some taxis reek of pee. ‘Fess up – do some taxi drivers lose control of their bladder because they’ve held it in for too long?

“My cabbie friends and I don’t believe in holding it in – we’ll relieve ourselves whenever we have the urge to pee. That’s because we know of the long-term health problems that arise from controlling one’s bladder. Of course, we don’t always go to proper toilets! (laughs)”

Q5. Is there anything we passengers should take note of?

“If you intend to go to more than one destination, please inform your driver before your journey starts. Sometimes, the driver may need to rush off after sending you to the first destination, so if he doesn’t know about your other intended destinations, conflict may arise.

Another very important point? Please, please inform your driver if you feel unwell or feel like throwing up. He can quickly pull over to let you throw up, and even offer you a plastic bag. I’ve had many passengers who threw up in my cab without warning, and my entire evening was ruined because I had to spend time getting rid of the mess and stench. In my opinion, there should be a law implemented where a flat fee is imposed the moment a passenger throws up in the cab. I usually ask for about $20 to cover my loss of income and car washing cost, but I know of some drivers who demand for up to $50. Despite creating a big mess, some passengers still refuse to pay extra and will only give you $3 to cover the car wash.”

Ever ready with a grin

Ever ready with a grin

During his 10 years as a cabbie, Mr Vincent Tai has consistently received letters of accolades from his passengers. If you wish to experience his sterling service, drop him a call at 8490 0223. 

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets